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Math vs. Maths

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  Marius Alza  —  Grammar Tips
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If you ever got into contact with the word "mathematics", you have certainly also seen at least one of the nouns from the pair "math" and "maths". But which one is correct? How do you spell it shortly, "math" or "maths"? Let's take a quick look upon this linguistic confusion to make sure you get it right.

Math vs. Maths

Both "math" and "maths" are abbreviations for the word "mathematics", the complex science that studies numbers and shapes. We can't claim that any of these abbreviated forms is right or wrong, because they are just shorter versions for the full noun ("mathematics"). Whether you prefer adding the last "s" or not is a matter of personal choice and culture, according to how you've been educated in school and how you have seen it spelled more frequently.

There are, anyway, some statistics that show how often "math" and "maths" are used. It turns out that, just as it happens for other pairs of words that differ through only one letter, the frequency of use regarding the different abbreviations differs from British to Americans. Here's how:

When do we use "maths"?

"Maths" is the abbreviation preferred by the British. In the UK, they say that "mathematics" ends in "s" and so should its short form. It's more likely that if you ask a British person, they would tell you they prefer "maths" as they have seen it spelled like this all the time.

When do we use "math"?

"Math" is preferred by the Americans, not only because they usually go for the shorter forms, but also because they consider "mathematics" is a mass noun that takes singular verbs and should, therefore, be abbreviated without the "s" in the end.

Conclusion

"Math" and "maths" are not complete words on their own and. As abbreviations, they can't be considered wrong or right. Choosing a form will be partially influenced by your personal choice and logic, and partially by the region where you've learned to spell it. British use "maths" more often and Americans prefer "math", but this does not define any rule for correct spelling.

Math vs. Maths

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3 Comments
  • Gambit201
    I was wondering how it changed and figured that it’s like the word color and colour and how it changed based on the printing press charging per letter, the us eliminated letters they thought to be useless based on the popularity of the word. So a word rarely used would maintain its duplicate letters while a commonly used word had letters removed to reduce the cost. Like the u in color. I figured the same happened with math. Since both uses are correct. The S is seen as a useless letter. Since mathematics is a long and expensive word and a decent amount of mass printed material probably needed to reference the word, reducing the cost even more would be great. And we in the us just accepted it and call it math. 
    LikeReply6 months ago
  • Matt Hias
    Matt Hias
    Not correct.
    A contraction or abbreviation which finishes in the last letter of the full word does not require a qualification in the form of a period (full stop).

    Therefore Maths is correct.

    Math. Is correct.

    Math is incorrect.

    As this rule is most common in the US, it logically follows, that those who use the term Math. the most should follow it.
     
    LikeReply 23 years ago
    • Felicity Chevalier
      Felicity Chevalier
      are there any other examples of this? it seems to be a single use case scenario, where mathematics is somewhat unique in being an endless plural form with an s at the end where other examples (politics) will get shortened to pol or pol. and not pols

      An exception seems arbitrary.
       
      LikeReply3 years ago
    • Matt Hias
      Matt Hias
      Felicity Chevalier.
      Pol is incorrect.
      Math is incorrect.
      Pol. Is correct.
      Math. Is correct.

      It’s not arbitrary.
      LikeReply 13 years ago
    • scottt.49929
      In the UK that's true, but in the US, abbreviations (such as "Mr." or "Dr.") are always followed by a period, at least conventionally. Of course, with increasing internationalization, many of the traditional US rules are starting to shift in practice to the UK variants that make sense (and vice versa). Logical punctuation comes to mind, for example, which even the American-based Wikipedia has made standard. 
      LikeReply4 months ago
  • Donald Edwards
    Donald Edwards
    Also, if you are an American working at NPR always add the "s" as a sophisification signifier.
    LikeReply 54 years ago
    • STANDS4
      STANDS4
      Good point, Donald!
      LikeReply 24 years ago

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